JUNE – JULY, 2021
This is an update on May and June at the MBSNS centre. Along with the regular study, Dhyan, and sports, the highlights for this month included a workshop for children on understanding good and bad touch and a parents learners (facilitators and students) meeting.
Focus on learning languages
The Hindi Class – In April, children started with reading simple Hindi text and learning to write summaries. In May and June, they began engaging with the language in new ways. Children prepared a song in Hindi, which they chose from the songs they had heard at the centre. They prepared the song ‘tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet mein yakin kar’. They also prepared a play with Abhimanyu’s help. It had been over a month since the children moved into the centre, and they started missing their parents. Due to the covid protocol, children were not allowed to meet the parents while at the centre. Although they were allowed to call home on Sundays, a new activity of writing letters to the family was also initiated. Engaging in these activities gave children a sense of achievement, which they could be proud of. Their previous engagement around learning was restricted to just reading and writing, which did not give them that sense of achievement.
In these months, some concepts of grammar were also introduced like सर्वनाम and विशेषण (pronouns and adjectives). At the same time, working on phonetics is a continuous process as few sounds in regional language are quite intermixed in pronunciation like र (Ra) and ड (Da), स (Sa) and श (Sha).
The English Class- In April children learned the basics of phonetics and vocabulary building exercises in English. We made our first phonetic videos and completed all 26 alphabets by June.
In May and June, the two-hour English slot was reorganized into three parts – immersion songs, the introduction of a new concept, and reading or writing groups or games (depending on what children chose).
The children have come a long way since April. When they came to the centre, they knew alphabets and could read three-letter words without understanding the meaning. In these last two months, they now sing along a selection of 6 songs displayed on a projector screen. This repertoire of songs has 3-4 nursery rhymes like Old Mac Donald had a farm, to anthems like Imagine (by John Lennon), what a wonderful world (Louis Armstrong), the sound of silence (Simon & Garfunkel), and action songs like Ram sum sum. These two months focused on understanding and learning nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, and other parts of speech through fun and interesting activities like charades and other games.
Parents Learners (Facilitators- students) meeting (PLM)
13th June was a special day. It was the first parents meeting at the centre. In some cases, both parents could not come due to financial constraints. For example, Jaikrishnaji could not come because he had to tend to the mango orchard, which they have leased this year. Reeta Devi and Hareram Bhaiya had similar financial constraints, while Sanjay Paswan has migrated to Bengal for work. In other cases, younger siblings came, enthusiastic and clingy, curious about their older sibling’s new home – The Centre.
The centre facilitators shared their idea of holistic education with the parents. Abhimanyu emphasized the need for parents to interact with teachers and caregivers, as this provided a two-way interaction and allowed for a common aim for their children. He shared how all children were bright and a joy to work with. He also reiterated that children enjoyed learning and there was more to learning than just memorization. Mithun further talked about the schedule at the centre and how each child followed the same and sometimes went over and above the schedule putting in additional shram daan (manual work) or study hours. He talked about pedagogy and interactions with respective teachers of English, Hindi, Maths, Science, and Computers. Sangeeta talked about children’s well-being and different learning styles.
Everybody, including children, parents, and facilitators, introduced themselves. This was followed by a skit that children had prepared as part of their Hindi class. Over the last two months, older children have written stories in their English class, which was also typed in their computer class. Each child chose one story which they read in English and then explained in Hindi. This was followed by the children giving their parents a copy of the compilation of stories named “Our First Book” and a letter each child had written to their parents in Hindi class. This session ended with children singing the song “tu zinda hai to zindagi ki jeet men yakeeen kar.”
After the children left, the parents and caretakers sat for an open session, in which parents gave their feedback and discussed their children’s wellbeing at the centre. Most were very happy to see that their children had adjusted well and did not want to leave the centre to go home. They were also impressed by the confidence they saw in their children. All of them were convinced they wanted their children to continue at the centre. We also discussed holidays and the academic calendar, emphasizing that we did not want children to take frequent leaves. Parents suggested holidays during the festive season, and together we have worked out a holiday calendar till 15th March 2022. Mandavi, one of the mothers asked if all parents should contribute to the running of the centre and it was decided that each would do what they can. For example, those who were daily wage labourers would try and give sharm daan at the centre; those with more stable incomes would try contributing financially; and those with farming would contribute in kind.
The Personal Safety Workshop
On 9th June, we organized a workshop on personal safety facilitated by Mithun and Abhimanyu. The workshop used a module from Arpan, aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. It introduced the idea of good and bad touch and explained the need to reach out for help from adults in their trusted circle.
Love is a special quality that children have, and their love has no boundaries. This thought is beautifully captured in a famous Hindi song “जो भी प्यार से मिला हम उसी के हो लिए” (becoming one with everyone who meets us with love). The centre has a patch for planting trees and a small plot marked for farming. From the very first day, children have loved the idea of planting, watering, and caring for plants. They have also found different levels of connections with the stray dogs, who have found a home at the centre, by petting, feeding and hugging them. This is their silent connection with nature – plants and dogs. A world dominated by the anthropocentric view has made nature peripheral to our existence; we hope children growing up at the centre will be able to find their connection with nature. It is with this thought in mind that children were part of a plantation drive this monsoon, taking ownership and responsibility of attending to one tree they planted.
And so it goes on … learning in and out of classrooms. In the spirit of holistic education, children continue to engage with physical exercises, sports like athletics, kho kho and kabaddi in the evening, and Dhyan. Though mostly the everyday shram daan involves cleaning and working in the field and caring for trees on campus, but sometimes children find creative ways of doing shram daan. For instance, Rani decided to be the centre barber, styling children’s hair. Not only was it a creative pursuit but it also meant we could limit the outside exposure of the centre inhabitants during these COVID-19 times- one hairstyle at a time!